A deal is in the works to sell iconic New Orleans venue Tipitina’s in light of recent lawsuits and financial insecurity, according to a report from local New Orleans news outlet WWL-TV. The reported plans to sell Tipitinas come as its longtime owner, Roland Von Kurnatowski, faces a number of lawsuits from investors surrounding bounced checks and unpaid debts totalling nearly $3M.
As Von Kurnatowski told WWL-TV in response to a question about his financial situation and the potential sale of the club, “My overall financial picture is good. Whether it’s time to sell Tipitina’s as this time is an open question.”
However, recent legal action taken against Von Kurnatowski seems to paint a different picture. According to a report by the New Orleans Advocate, “Two recent lawsuits filed against Roland Von Kurnatowski, an owner of Tipitina’s and the Orpheum Theater, accuse the New Orleans businessman of bilking investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in what one of the suits describes as a ‘Ponzi scheme.'”
In addition to the lawsuits, the report notes that multiple high-profile acts that recently played at Tipitina’s and the Orpheum Theater, also owned by Von Kurnatowski at the time (he has since sold his stake), have had their performance checks bounce earlier this year—even after their shows sold out.
Tipitina’s was originally founded by a group of New Orleans music fans as a performance venue for local musical legend Professor Longhair. It’s named for one of Longhair’s most famous songs, “Tipitina”, which has since become a beloved NOLA standard. Von Kurnatowski bought the venue in 1996, and while he was reportedly unaware of its particular history, he has since been dedicated to preserving its identity. He and his wife even created a non-profit organization, the Tipitina’s Foundation, in its name. As WWLTV notes, the couple would likely have to stop using the Tipitina’s name for the foundation should they choose to sell the venue.
The identity of the venue’s potential buyers and their plans for the space remain unknown. We’ll keep you updated as more information becomes available.